NOKIA Kenya: the best yet to come

Nokia’s joint anti-counterfeit efforts with state agencies start to bear fruit

Efforts by global mobile phone solutions company Nokia to fight counterfeits through collaboration with state agencies have started bearing fruit, offering hope for increased tax revenues and job opportunities lost through importation of fake goods through the country’s points of entry.

A Somali businessman Mr. Ibrahim Khalif of Salihiya Cargo and Shipping Agency Ltd was fined Kshs 1.5 million by an Eldoret court after thousands of suspected counterfeit Nokia accessories which included Nokia handsets, batteries, chargers, imported through the company’s name, were seized in a warehouse at the Moi International Airport, Eldoret.

Mr. Kenneth Oyolla, General Manager Nokia, East and Southern Africa said: “Following our complaint with the Kenya Bureau of Standards’ Weights and Measures Department, a raid was conducted at the airport warehouse where the suspected products were stored before distribution, 17,783 counterfeit Nokia handsets and accessories were seized.”

After a number of court hearings, the court ruled in favour of the Weights and Measures department, ordering the destruction of the goods and a fine of Kshs 1.5 million. The fine was paid by the importer and the goods have now been destroyed according to Mr. Kephers Ndika, an officer from the Ministry of Trade.

Hailing the raid as an encouraging step by government authorities, Mr. Oyolla said Nokia will continue with its collaborative efforts through training of Kenya Revenue Authority and the Kenya Bureau of Standards officials to distinguish the fake from genuine Nokia products. The company is also organizing training for immigration officers at border entry points to arrest the entry of fake handsets.

Mr. Oyolla said although the government removed 16 per cent Value Added tax (VAT) on mobile phones in the last year’s pre-budget, significant gains could be eroded by the influx of counterfeits.

“Our advice is that customers should buy Nokia products from authorized distributors and retailers and ensure they get their 12-month warranty for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. And if a product is purchased from a location other than an authorized dealer then exercise extreme caution especially when the price is substantially less than being stated by Nokia authorized dealers,” said Mr. Oyolla.

He said the recently-enacted Anti-counterfeit Law was a shot in the arm for the economy and a major win for legal businesses such as Nokia that have invested heavily to offer customers genuine products. The Anti-counterfeit law spells out harsh penalties including a fine Kshs 500,000 or five years imprisonment for those guilty.

According to Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM),  the Kenyan economy loses about Ksh 50 billion annually to counterfeiters  and the extent of the problem exacerbated last year, when the figure went up to Kshs 70.2 billion. Directly, KAM estimates that the government is losing Kshs 19 billion annually.

“Counterfeiting is an illegal activity that affects many successful consumer product companies on a global basis in a wide range of industries and the national economies in which they do business. This illegal practice has a debilitating, draining effect on the Kenyan economy through lost revenues, fewer jobs in legitimate local businesses and law enforcement costs among other things,” said Mr. Oyolla.

The malpractice is also threatening regional  economic benefits of the East African community with KAM’s Standards and Regulatory Committee estimating that counterfeit and substandard products cost the East African region over Kshs 40 billion (US$ 500 million)  in lost government tax revenue annually.

He said Nokia will continue to undertake consumer awareness especially on how to identify genuine Nokia products right from the packaging, features, pricing and warranty period as well as risks of using counterfeited products.

“As a global company Nokia partners with and takes a leadership position in a wide network of organizations to advocate for legislation, regulations, procedures and other enforcement policies to protect the broader industry, including Coalition of Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR), International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC), Quality Brands Protection Committee (QBPC) among others,” said Mr Oyolla.

NOKIA Kenya: the best is yet to come

A few years ago election monitoring and reporting was a tricky, tiring and often thankless affair. Dealing with Kenya‘s elections processes in the last decade, in particular, has largely involved sending hordes of polling clerks, election observers and monitors, with paper files stashed in their underarms, to far-flung areas to help record the goings-on election and referenda. Apart from being slow, unreliable and erratic, such processes have proved risky for election officials especially if violence broke out.

But things are changing. Mobile phone technology is rapidly transforming the way these national and other crucial life-changing activities are carried out, bringing with it faster, reliable and credible relay of information from outlying areas.

Apart from elections reporting, the ubiquitous device, owned by nearly 20 million Kenyans, has also helped stem incidents of violence that have in the past rocked various parts of Kenya notably in 2007 elections. A lot depends on how transparent such processes as elections are but the mobile phone is taking a lion’s share of the contribution toward this positive change.

In a ground-breaking project in conjunction with the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), Safaricom, Kenya’s largest network operator, the world’s leading mobile handsets-maker Nokia supplied over 18,000 Nokia 1680 phones to be used by the electoral body’s returning officers and clerks in various part of the country.

IIEC had picked Safaricom after, inviting Kenyan telecom operators for a partnership with it with the objective of running an efficient and credible referendum process.

“Key to this was information management with planned innovation of using mobile and fixed data infrastructure to transmit results quickly and cost effectively. Safaricom responded with a fully fixed and data proposition to meet this need. The mobile data solution included 3G modems and 18,000 Nokia 1680 handsets,” says Mr. Kenneth Oyolla General Manager, Nokia East and Southern Africa. The Nokia 1680 is one of the most affordable, internet-enabled mobile phones and boasts of a long battery life.

Safaricom then installed specific elements on the GPRS-enabled handsets including a customized application with a special interface for submitting results. It was a basic interface that has a ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ options for feedback. The phones were then installed with an Internet Protocol (IP) address- a numerical label that is assigned to devices and which helps to uniquely identify each device.

The phones were also installed with an access point name (APN) which enabled the phone used by every presiding officer to be authenticated as genuine when they relayed results electronically to the computers at the tallying centre. . As a result the IIEC was able to get timely feedback in its centre, hubbed at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi. By the time the clock ticked midnight of August 4 most of the results had had trickled from remote areas in Mandera and Malaba, near the border with Uganda.

“The sheer ubiquity of mobile phones is bringing with it one of the biggest leaps in history, in many spheres of our lives. Whether it’s the good, old text message or the new, snazzy features such as mobile chat- which are gaining huge popularity in Kenya and in Sub-Saharan Africa-the mobile phone is bound expand the possibilities. The revolution has just started,” says Mr Oyolla.

So what does the mobile phone revolution portend for people’s livelihoods? With progressively lower calling rates people are already interacting more on phone. In its latest quarterly report, covering January to March 2010, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) says the total number of mobile traffic grew by 19.9 per cent from 4.2 million minutes in the previous quarter to 5.1 million minutes. This represents a 118.6 percent increase, compared to the same period of the previous year.

At the end of the 2009, the penetration rate of mobile service had risen to 49.7 per 100 inhabitants. This compares favorably the world average of 49.8 per 100 inhabitants, as rated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), World Development Index 2009 from 2007 data. The recent tariff reductions by Kenyan mobile operators are destined to perk up these figures. Analysts say this is, potentially, good for the economy, with possibilities of people engaging in productive interactions such as seeking jobs, market-related requests and the like.

Soon, says Mr. Oyolla, mobile technology could play a significant role in detecting, mapping and responding to epidemics as happened in a recent polio outbreak in Kenya recently. With handset-makers like Nokia championing manufacture and use of low-priced, internet-enabled devices, players in the industry are expecting even more interactions on the mobile phone.

The mobile phone is already bringing unprecedented impact in other areas such as finance, education, health and environment. The talk of M-Pesa, revolutionary money transfer service pioneered by Safaricom, and a world’s first, has brought about ground breaking and positive effects to the Kenyan economy.

And in neighbouring Tanzania, Nokia is already providing technology leadership through Bridgeit locally known as Elimu kwa Teknolojia (Education through technology) in Tanzania using convergence as a platform for learning for children in developing economies, many of whom lack access to basic learning materials.

Mr Oyolla says the project, a multi-sectoral partnership with International Youth Foundation, the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and others, has brought about a “unique convergence of mobile telephony and satellite technology designed to deliver digital multimedia learning materials to teachers and students who otherwise would not have access to them. Plans are now well underway to kick this program off in Kenya before the end of the year.”

The mobile phone may have been alien to many Kenyans just a decade ago, but the socio-economic significance of this device might not meet its technological match in the next century.